by Patrick Imig (@patrickimig)
Cold Hard Football Facts' Bird & Game Expert
INJURY ADDED TO INSULT
Give Mike Smith and the Atlanta Falcons credit for trying. The team chose to go all-out for the victory. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they were beaten 22-17 by a Tampa Bay Bucs team that had lost its previous five games by a combined score of 147-80.
Matt Ryan delivered a sub-par performance, completing 28/44 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. Ryan was sacked twice and averaged an anemic 5.2 Yards Per Attempt.
The game was the first home loss for the Falcons in 2012. They trailed 16-3 at the half and did little in the second half to restore faith in the idea they're a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
FALCONS D LOSES TWO STARTERS
Defensive End John Abraham left the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle injury.
Starting cornerback Dunta Robinson left in the first quarter with a head injury and didn't return.
Yeah, this game went about as bad for the Falcons as one could imagine, save an injury to Matt Ryan.
STATISTICAL MISMATCH ON THE GROUND
While rookie Doug Martin averaged 5.1 Yards Per Attempt on 28 carries for 142 yards and one touchdown, the Falcons running backs churned out just 53 yards on 14 carries, good for 3.8 YPA. The Bucs came into Week 17 No. 1 in rushing YPA.
The lone Atlanta highlight on the ground was Michael Turner's 17 yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Turner gained one yard on his other five carries throughout the afternoon.
THE ROAD TO A FIRST ROUND BYE
Atlanta started the season 8-0, but finished 5-3 in the season's second half. All three losses came in the NFC South, with a Week 10 loss at New Orleans, a Week 14 loss at Carolina and their first home loss in Week 17 against the Bucs.
The record includes a flawless 4-0 in record against Quality Opponents.
The Falcons gets the week off and a chance to re-examine what went wrong in Week 17. Perhaps the Falcons overlooked their division rival one week after dominating the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
Whatever the case, Atlanta's history in the playoffs (0-3 in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era) and the Week 17 debacle is sure to make Falcons fans queasy and uneasy.